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10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Colleagues


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For better or worse, the average business person spends more time with colleagues than with family and friends. So while you’re making that gift list this holiday season, be sure to include those co-workers who regularly put a smile on your face and make your work life more enjoyable and productive. Whether your recipient is the receptionist, someone you manage, your boss or a fellow team member, your gift should convey a message of appreciation and professionalism. Refrain from intimate and inappropriate gifts, e.g., lingerie, and do not buy anything pricey and extravagant, e.g., diamond earrings.

This holiday season, we recommend the following gifts for the special co-workers in your work life.

1. Books
Books are meaningful, educational, and affordable gifts.  If you don’t know which literary genre your colleague prefers, then the safest bet is a business book. Our top three picks for 2012 are:

2. Gadget cases
Laptop, tablet and smartphone cases not only protect electronic devices, they are also fashion statements for professionals and geeks alike.

  • For laptop bags, we like the selection on eBags, where you can browse by gender, color, style and more.
  • For smartphone and tablet cases, check out Case-Mate and Case Logic.
  • If your gift recipient is a klutz or works in a rugged environment, you can’t go wrong with Otterbox, which offers protective and good-looking smartphone and tablet cases.

3. Gadget charger
Running out of gadget power: it’s a first-world problem, but an irksome one nonetheless. Smartphone chargers have come a long way technologically. We recommend the following:

  • iCarrier IMP120D Dual Port Charger: this portable battery charger is perfect for that person who’s always on-the-go. The charger is compatible with most smartphones and tablets, and features two ports for simultaneous charging.
  • Powergen Dual USB Port Car Charger: this charger also powers up to two USB-compatible devices — in the car!
  • Plugable USB 2.0 10 Port Hub: this is a charger on steroids! It makes a great home or office accessory for charging up to ten devices. Compatible with most smartphones and tablets.

4. Charity gift cards
For that person who has everything, consider a charity gift card. If you know about a cause your recipient supports, you can donate money directly to that organization on their behalf. Several online organizations make it easy to give charity gift cards, including:

  • Rescue Gifts: donate to specific programs and projects run by the International Rescue Committee. Causes include health, education, emergency relief, rebuilding, and women and girls.
  • TisBest Charity: spend as little as $10 on a gift card that you can email or mail to your recipient. Then, your recipient goes to the TisBest site, where they donate the gift card to the charities of their choice.
  • JustGive: this is the same concept as TisBest.

5. Food baskets
If your colleague is a foodie,  give a gift basket of homemade or bought goods. Check out the following gift basket services:

  • Harry and David: features a large selection of gourmet goodies to choose from, including: fruit, chocolate, fruitcake, cookies, cheese, and even prime rib. Most items are of the Harry and David brand. Ordering is easy: you can call in your order or select your items online. The gift basked will be delivered to your recipient wrapped appropriately for the occasion.
  • Gift Tree: another great service for gourmet treats, including: fresh fruit, Godiva chocolates, top-rated wines and champagne, cookies, cakes, and more. The service works similarly to that of Harry and David: order by phone or online, and have your basket wrapped and delivered to your recipient.

6. Restaurant gift certificate
Give the gift of a nice dining experience with a gift certificate to a local favorite restaurant. These online retailers provide services for buying gift cards at thousands of restaurants:

  • Treatful (an Open Table company): select restaurants by city, then narrow down by neighborhood, cuisine, and price range. Your recipient receives his/her “treat” via email.
  • similar to Treatful (although each service may offer different portfolios of restaurants from which to choose), and you have the option of sending the gift card by email or mail.

7. Wine or Beer
Alcohol can be a classy gift, especially if you know how to select a good quality wine or beer. If your co-worker is a beer drinker, consider buying imported ales, which you can find at certain grocery stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. As for wine, here are a couple of online wine retailers that provide extensive selections, as well as plenty of information on finding the right bottle:

8. iPad Mini
If you’re willing to spend more money for that extra special co-worker whom you couldn’t work without, kick it up a notch with this season’s hottest gadget. The iPad Mini runs as low as $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model.

9. Massage gift certificate
Give the gift of relaxation and indulgence. A session with a good masseuse will melt away your colleague’s stress knots. Buy a gift certificate (be sure to include gratuity in the amount) at a local spa or go to SpaFinder for a gift card that can be used at thousands of spas worldwide. SpaFinder allows you to send your gift card by snail mail or email.

10. Anything from ThinkGeek
If you want to give the gift of FUN, check out ThinkGeek‘s site for all types of geeky products, some practical and some designed for nothing but giggles. Find witty tees with pop culture references (Star Wars fans rejoice), esoteric gadget accessories (e.g., chocolate-scented iPhone case), electronics for the most unusual use cases, and paraphernalia for practical jokers. A RingCentral employee recently purchased several Annoy-a-tron devices (they emit random sounds, like crickets chirping) and hid them around the office. It was a hoot witnessing executive and employee reactions, which ranged from bewilderment to agitation. When the truth was revealed, everybody had a good laugh. ThinkGeek offers an emporium of corporate fun.


Originally published Dec 08, 2012, updated Jul 20, 2021

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